I’ve never been to Boston. I’ve never been anywhere in the US, for that matter. But Boston is a place which lives large in my imagination. When I think of America, I hear the Boston accent. I think of the streetscapes of Good Will Hunting, the pubs and the wide avenues and the laughing people. People who are proud of their heritage, particularly if it’s Irish heritage.
News footage of yesterday’s bombing of the Boston Marathon showed a fire truck parked not far from the finish line. Doctors, first responders, rescue personnel, police officers, the wounded and the terrified, thronged around it. From the ladder on the back of this fire truck a flag was flying; not the Stars and Stripes, but a flag that seemed so at home in this most Irish of American cities. It was the tricolour – the Irish flag. My flag.
The news from Boston was horrifying enough without the extra knowledge that some of the bereaved parents from Newtown, Conn., whose children were lost last December in another tragedy, were seated near the Marathon’s finish line. The twenty-sixth mile of the Marathon, as far as I know, was being run in memory of those who were killed in Connecticut. Injustice piled upon injustice for these familes, and the rest of us left to question: ‘Why? Why on earth, why would anyone do this?’
I would feel sympathetic and angry and horrified and sorry for those caught up in a tragedy like this no matter where it had taken place; my heart would’ve gone out to the victims, and to the brave medics and ambulance and fire crews regardless of where they were. But for some reason the fact that it was Boston which was visited by this terrible darkness makes it worse. The fact that a sporting event was targeted, an event in which people test themselves to find out what they’re made of, also makes it worse. The fact that it was a sporting event on a holiday in Boston, a day when families are out in droves, where children are off school and celebrating the onset of Spring, a day which should be full of joy, makes it worse. The fact that people who’ve already seen unimaginable tragedy should be caught up in it makes it worst of all.
Like everyone else, I’m trying to keep thinking about the massive response given by those who ran to help, those who ran straight towards the danger in order to find out who they could assist. I’m trying to think about the response on Twitter in the aftermath of the bombs, where people shared that they had room for a stranded runner to spend the night if they needed, or the numbers for people to call if they wanted to try to find a loved one, or how to donate blood in order to help. I’m trying to think about all the thousands of people who survived, and who will survive, due to the heroism of doctors, nurses, first responders and ordinary citizens. I’m thinking about how this Boston Marathon really showed what the people taking part in it were made of – not just in terms of their athletic ability, but in terms of their courage and compassion, too.
If there is to be any sort of ‘happy ending’ to this story, it should be that the majority of people are still good, and they still care, and they still want to help others. Their instinct is still to run towards those who need assistance, to try to think of ways they can help, to try to anticipate needs and fill them. No matter what happens, we need to hold onto this. Everyone has a role to play in making the world a more peaceful, and less horror-filled, place. Whether this is something as huge as drafting the law or keeping the peace, or simply being kind to every person you meet, makes no difference. We’ll never get there unless we are all pulling in the same direction.
Let’s all pull together on this one. Take care and have a happy Tuesday.